Pennsylvania school-funding lawsuit seems poised to proceed
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna & Kristen A. Graham - Staff Writers Updated: MARCH 7, 2018 — 3:10 PM EST
Top Pennsylvania Republicans tried again Wednesday to block a challenge to the way schools are funded in the state, but a landmark lawsuit over the issue seemed poised to proceed after a Commonwealth Court hearing. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, including the William Penn School District and parents in Philadelphia and Delaware County, said after the hearing they were confident the case would move forward. “The only thing in question is how long it will take us to get to trial, not whether it will get to trial,” said Michael Churchill, a Public Interest Law Center lawyer, representing the plaintiffs. The suit, first brought in 2014, contends the way Pennsylvania funds its public schools is unfair, inadequate, and unconstitutional. It alleges state officials have “adopted an irrational school funding system that does not deliver the essential resources students need and discriminates against children based on where they live and the wealth of their communities.” The case has broad implications for the commonwealth’s 500 school districts and the more than one million children they educate.
Commonwealth Court hears arguments in school funding case
The next step would be a trial on the merits. Attorneys for legislative leaders would like to see the case thrown out.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 7, 2018 — 5:36pm
The long-running lawsuit seeking adequate and equitable school funding in Pennsylvania is entering its next phase after a hearing Wednesday before the Commonwealth Court.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said afterward that they were confident that the judges would allow the case to move forward so they can present evidence at trial that the current funding system harms children and families in poor school districts where, despite often-high tax rates, schools lack the resources they need. The question, they said, is whether arguments presented by attorneys for legislative leaders will introduce further delays into the three-year-old case. “Every day this case is delayed, tens of thousands of students go another day, another month, another year, without the resources they need to meet state standards and flourish in the modern economy we have today,” said Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center, which is representing the plaintiffs along with the Education Law Center and the law firm of O'Melveny & Myers LLP. Maura McInerney, legal director of ELC, said that since the judges were concerned about the standard for review, "it's an indication the case will move forward." The plaintiffs – six school districts, seven families, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the NAACP – say the state’s system of funding is unfair and unconstitutional, violating the provision to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of education.
GOP lawmakers seek to stop Pa. education funding lawsuit at preliminary hearing
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent March 7, 2018
The lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s school-funding scheme continued its slow climb through the legal system Wednesday with oral arguments before the Commonwealth Court in Philadelphia. Lawyers for State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, State House Speaker Mike Turzai, and the Pennsylvania Board of Education proffered a series of preliminary injunctions that could stall the case and even, theoretically, nullify it. But lawyers from both sides indicated in oral arguments that the case will likely move forward in some form. The hearing Wednesday could shape the timeline of the case, as well as the arguments permitted if the suit gets to a full trial. “I don’t see any scenario where this case doesn’t go forward,” said Brad Elias, lead attorney for the plaintiffs at Wednesday’s hearing. “To me it’s just a question of how successful they are at slowing us down.” Lawyers for Scarnati and Turzai said they were not authorized to comment on the case.
School Funding Lawsuit Gets Commonwealth Court Hearing
KYW By Pat Loeb March 7, 2018 at 3:35 pm
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Five Commonwealth Court judges braved the storm, Wednesday, to hear arguments in a case that could have a huge impact on the way Pennsylvania public schools are funded. The hearing was to decide whether the issue will get a full trial. Sate legislators being sued asked the court to dismiss the suit, saying the state has no obligation to fund districts equally, that the disparity is a product of “local control” because districts are largely funded with property taxes. They also said a recent change to the funding formula renders the case moot. Attorneys representing parents and underfunded districts claim the disparities in Pennsylvania are so great they violate students’ “equal protection” rights. Jamella Miller says she saw the difference when her family moved from a well-heeled district in Montgomery County to the William Penn district in Delaware County. “Our daughter was in a classroom where it was raining in the coat closet and all the kids’ coats were wet, every time it rained,” she said. “I mean not just wet from the rain but wet from being inside the building.”
Lawsuit: Pennsylvania Is Failing Its Schoolchildren
Pennsylvania school districts, parents and activists have argued before a panel of judges that the state has failed in its constitutional duty to provide students an adequate education.
USNews By ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE, Associated Press March 7, 2018, at 4:27 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pennsylvania has failed its constitutional duty to provide its students with an adequate education, a long-running lawsuit brought by school districts, parents and activist groups alleged Wednesday before a panel of judges in Philadelphia. The legal challenge to how schools are funded largely hinges on language in the Pennsylvania constitution that requires lawmakers to provide a thorough and efficient system of public education. A mother of two children enrolled in a high school outside Philadelphia spoke of jam-packed classrooms without computers or textbooks, where track team members train in hallways because there's no a track. She said the state is clearly failing its pupils. "It is not fair for our children to have to sit through this every day," plaintiff Jamella Miller said after court hearing. "We pay taxes just like everyone else." The case, which names Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, education department officials and top state legislators as defendants, was previously dismissed in 2015 on the grounds that courts shouldn't be determining how much money equals a proper education. That issue formed both the basis of much of the rebuttals from the defense as well as judges' questions for the plaintiffs.
RECAP OF MARCH 7 SCHOOL FUNDING ORAL ARGUMENT
Public Interest Law Center Website March 7, 2018
Today we presented oral argument to an en banc panel of Commonwealth Court judges in an effort to move our school funding lawsuit forward as quickly as possible. Recognizing the importance of this case, the Court held argument in spite of the fact that all other courts in the region decided to close for the day. Many of our clients and partners, including our co-counsel from the Education Law Center and O’Melveny & Myers LLP, braved the rain and snow and filled the courtroom in a show of support. Front half of Commonwealth Courtroom before argument The Court heard arguments on remaining preliminary objections and a motion to dismiss. Attorneys for the legislative respondents – Representative Turzai and Senator Scarnati – argued that our constitutional claim has been rendered moot by the legislature’s adoption of the funding formula.
Pa.'s legislature will see four centuries of experience walk out the door this year
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | email@example.com | Posted March 08, 2018 at 05:55 AM
Pennsylvania is looking at having one of the largest number of state legislator retirements this year that it has seen in over a quarter of a century. With 26 representatives and four senators choosing not to seek re-election, it ties the number of lawmakers who chose to call it quits in 2006, the year after the controversial double-digit pay raise vote. That year was the largest number of retirements since 1992. About two-thirds of the departing lawmakers hold leadership posts or committee chairmanship positions. All but six of them are Republicans, which currently hold the majorities in both chambers.
Here are the Lehigh Valley's U.S. Senate and state candidates for 2018
By Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com Posted March 08, 2018 at 06:30 AM | Updated March 08, 2018 at 06:34 AM
Pennsylvania Republican and Democratic voters will face a number of choices at the state level in the May 15 primary election. The deadline was Tuesday to submit nominating petitions for the races, plus the race for U.S. Senate. Because of a redrawn boundary map, the Pennsylvania Department of State pushed back the petition deadline to March 20 for those running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Here is a look at the major party candidates who filed for the U.S. Senate and state races.
State approves $14 million payment for Erie School District
GoErie By Ed Palattella Posted Mar 7, 2018 at 11:02 AM Updated Mar 7, 2018 at 8:36 PM
The receipt of the money, to arrive on March 14, will trigger a state budget provision that will boost the district’s state funding by $14 million from now on. For the Erie School District, the check really is in the mail. The state has approved a $14 million payment for the district for this fiscal year, a long-awaited move that also will help the district remain solvent in the years ahead. The Pennsylvania Department of Education said the district will get the money in a week. The $14 million represents the additional state funding that the General Assembly allocated for the district in July. The district since then has been waiting for the release of the $14 million in the form of a grant from the state’s $23.15 million Educational Access account for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which ends June 30.
“The bill would raise the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and create a waiting period on sales of the weapons. It would also create a so-called guardian program that would let school employees and many teachers carry handguns if they go through law enforcement training and if the school district decides to participate in the program. Other provisions would create new mental health programs for schools; establish an anonymous tip line where students and others could report threats to schools, ban bump stocks and improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.”
Gun legislation passes Florida House, goes to governor
Lancaster Online By CURT ANDERSON, BRENDAN FARRINGTON and JOSH REPLOGLE Associated Press March 7, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida House passed a school safety bill Wednesday that includes new restrictions on rifle sales and a program to arm some teachers, sending the measure to the governor for his signature. The vote of 67-50 reflected a mix of Republicans and Democrats in support and opposition. The measure, a response to the shootings at a Parkland high school that left 17 dead, is supported by the victims' families. Andrew Pollack, who lost his 18-year-old daughter Meadow in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and Ryan Petty, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Alaina, said there was enough good in the bill that it should pass. "More needs to be done, and it's important for the country to be united in the same way the 17 families united in support of this bill," Pollack said after the vote. "My precious daughter Meadow's life was taken, and there's nothing I can do to change that, but make no mistake, I'm a father and I'm on a mission. I'm on a mission to make sure I'm the last dad to ever read a statement of this kind."
Congess shouldn't wait for the White House before acting on gun-control | Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board firstname.lastname@example.org Updated Mar 7, 9:19 AM
(Editor's Note: The below editorial appeared in Wednesday's editions of The Washington Post)
Action on gun-control legislation has stalled in Congress as Republican leaders try to get some sense of what President Donald Trump might support. We have a better idea. Rather than trying to decipher signals from a president who changes his mind by the hour, lawmakers should listen to the public they are elected to represent. Its message in the aftermath of last month's fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been clear: It's time to end the decades-long stalemate on gun control and enact laws to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands. A number of bipartisan bills have been introduced, including to bolster the national system of background checks, but debate was slowed after Trump's shifting stances last week created confusion.
Trump raising money for Rick Saccone ahead of Saturday campaign rally
Trib Live by WES VENTEICHER | Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 1:21 p.m.
President Trump is raising money for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone in advance of his visit Saturday to Western Pennsylvania. In a Tuesday night fundraising email, Trump called Saccone a “dedicated conservative leader.” He didn't mention Democratic candidate Conor Lamb by name but referred to Saccone's opponent as “another puppet for Nancy Pelosi.” Saccone, a state representative from Elizabeth Township, faces the former federal prosecutor Lamb in a March 13 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned in October amid an extramarital sex scandal. The congressional district includes parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Greene counties. Trump won the district by 19 percentage points in 2016, and Democrats never mounted a serious threat to the GOP's Murphy in eight elections, but recent polling shows a tight race between Saccone and Lamb. Trump said all money donated will go “directly toward Rick's fight against the big-name Democrats who want to steal this race from the American people.” The president called the contest the “most crucial race in the country.”
Republicans trash their candidate in Pa. special election
The GOP is bracing for an embarrassing defeat next week in a district Donald Trump won by 20 points.
Politico By ALEX ISENSTADT 03/07/2018 06:25 PM EST
Shortly after the new year, Rep. Steve Stivers, the House GOP campaign chief, delivered a stern message to Rick Saccone, the party's special election candidate in Pennsylvania. You need to start pulling your weight, Stivers implored Saccone, the mustachioed 60-year-old state legislator who is carrying the weight of the Republican Party in a crucial contest next week. Stivers’ warning, described by two people familiar with the discussion, was intended to put the candidate on notice. The national GOP would be helping him out substantially, Stivers said. But if Saccone didn’t start upping his fundraising game and getting his sluggish campaign in order, he could lose a race that should be a gimme for the party. Saccone said he understood. But in the weeks to come, the National Republican Congressional Committee quietly dispatched a staffer to the district to walk Saccone, who lacked any donor infrastructure, through the basics of how to fundraise. Stivers had several more conversations with the candidate to try to prod him along.
Joe Biden stumps for Conor Lamb, appeals to middle-class values at Robert Morris
Beaver County Times By JD Prose / email@example.com Posted Mar 6, 2018 at 9:00 PM Updated Mar 6, 2018 at 10:21 PM
Former Vice President says Democratic candidate is ‘a man with real character’
MOON TWP. -- Former Vice President Joe Biden brought his political star power and straight-talking attitude to Allegheny County on Tuesday as he made two campaign stops with 18th Congressional District special election Democratic candidate Conor Lamb. After rallying union workers at the Carpenters Training Center in Collier Township, Biden and Lamb, a Mount Lebanon resident, joined about 750 people packed into a banquet room inside Robert Morris University’s Yorktown Hall residence building on University Boulevard. “My name is Joe Biden and I’m from Scranton, Pennsylvania ... and I work for Conor Lamb,” Biden told the crowd shortly after taking the stage just past 7 p.m. With a week to go before the March 13 special election, Biden hammered home that Lamb, a former federal prosecutor and Marine veteran, understands western Pennsylvania, middle-class values and would fight to protect the social safety net that Republicans have chipped away at under President Donald Trump.
Parkland Student David Hogg, Other Advocates Lobby Capitol Hill on Gun Control
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on March 7, 2018 5:47 PM
Senate Democrats held a hearing Wednesday in which students, parents, and others pushed for Congress to enact tougher gun control measures in order to help prevent school shootings and protect children from gun violence. Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month, Democratic lawmakers and others, including student activists, have been lobbying to restrict access to certain firearms and enact other measures to prevent similar mass shootings. It's far from certain, however, that Congress will get on board with those kinds of proposals. And Democrats told those providing comments at the hearing that while they deserved to be heard, the Republican majorities on Capitol Hill so far would not let them and other advocates speak at official hearings. "Parkland represents the American Dream. Parkland is the last place where I'd expect something like this to happen," said David Hogg, a Stoneman Douglas student and one of the most outspoken voices from the school in favor of gun control. (Hogg spoke at the hearing remotely.) "We have become so habituated to this kind of thing in the United States."
DeVos visit draws criticism from Parkland students
The Hill BY LUIS SANCHEZ - 03/07/18 12:22 PM EST 220
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a shooter killed 17 people and left many others wounded, was met with criticism by some students. After news broke that DeVos would be going to the Florida school on Wednesday, a number of students took to social media to express their thoughts, with some talking about a walkout. Many of the students have been pressing for government to pass gun control laws following the school shooting. Several, including Emma González, one of those criticizing DeVos, also have been public figures and attained large social media followings by speaking out publicly for gun control.
NPE: Join us in a Day of Action April 20th to Stop Gun Violence in our Schools
Network for Public Education February 16, 2018 by Darcie Cimarusti
After the slaughter of students and staff in Parkland, Florida, the time for action has never been more urgent. The politicians sit on their hands as our children and their teachers are murdered in their schools. We will be silent no more! The failure to enact rational laws that bar access to guns designed for mass shootings is inexcusable. It is past time to speak out and act. Pledge your support to stop gun violence here. We call for mass action on April 20, the anniversary of the horrific shootings at Columbine High School. We urge teachers, families, students, administrators and every member of the community to engage in acts of protest in and around their schools. Create actions that work best in your community. Organize sit-ins, teach-ins, walkouts, marches–whatever you decide will show your school and community’s determination to keep our students safe. One elementary teacher suggested that teachers and parents link arms around the school to show their determination to protect children.
Learn the latest news, initiatives and upcoming events from your association.
Bring knowledge back to your district of how the commonwealth budget will fiscally impact it. Discuss the top legislative issues affecting public education. Learn how you can advocate for your school district taxpayers, students and public education success.
Enjoy productive conversation with your school leader colleagues. Boost your network, share your experiences and build a stronger voice for public education.
This focus group is your opportunity to share your input in drafting a blueprint for the future of public education. The Commonwealth Education Blueprint is a multiyear effort founded and managed by PSBA to develop and implement a statewide vision for the future of public education. Through this comprehensive project, education stakeholders from across the state and from many areas of expertise are coming together to proactively determine what education should look like in years to come. Having a clear and comprehensive statewide vision will ensure that we provide an increasingly excellent public education experience for children. This is your opportunity to get involved, share your feedback, and help draft the plan for the future of education!
Registration is now open for the 2018 PASA Education Congress! State College, PA, March 19-20, 2018
Don't miss this marquee event for Pennsylvania school leaders at the Nittany Lion Inn, State College, PA, March 19-20, 2018.
Learn more by visiting http://www.pasa-net.org/2018edcongress
Visits with legislators will be conducted earlier in the day. More information will be sent via email, shared in our publications and posted on our website closer to the event.